|Cast: Bobby Blanchard, Sister Elaine Roulet, Tanika, Mona, Melissa, Rosa, Anneathia, Luecrezy|
Director(s): Jenifer McShane
Decided to check out the HotDocs festival currently going on in Toronto, hopefully will get around to seeing a few more docs this week. This one was great, and surprisingly optimistic given the topic: it follows the stories of five incarcerated women in a maximum security NY prison, and how the programs and councellors at the prison help them to be better mothers to their children, despite being behind bars for very long sentences (the least being three years, the most being 25, and two are still in prison). Some ae there becaus of drug-related crimes, some because of second degree murder in self-defence, but they all maintain their maternal instincts and hope to set the best examples possible for their kids each other. The prison itself is a rarity - most don't provide these kind of programs and outreaching needed to nurture the already strained mother-child relationships these people have, and they are fortunate to have the staff willing to help out and support the programs to this extent. The mothers also realize this opportunity is a priveledge and take advantage of it. Each one has her story, as do their kids and relatives on the outside, and each has her own different obstacles to overcome if she wants to eventually get released and reunited with her family at home. Insightful, sometimes even humourous, but a good look inside a different kind of prison system that one is not usually oft to think about, and a good argument for trying to instill more programs like these into more prisons. It is contrasted at one point with another nearby prison who gets some childrens' books donations in order to jumpstart a similar program there - the director was on hand afterwards for a Q&A and she revealed that it never took off, but that little by little a few more prisons are trying to use Bedford as an example. She also mentioned that there's a few prisons now who allow fathers to record book-readings-on-tape for their kids to listen to at home, and a few that allow conjugal visits so kids can sleep in a trailer one night with their incarcerated parents. This will obviously be limited to the more well-behaved prisoners, and the 5 women featured here appear to be in prison more because of poor choices/circumstances rather than cold-blooded maliciousness. Anyways, a fine, spirited, sympathetic doc.
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